I guarantee you that there is no better way to stop kaizen than to put someone out of work because of kaizen.
Some of you might think that this goes in the “Duh” category, but believe it or not, I have first hand knowledge of this concept being ignored. It might be because sometimes top leaders only see the bottom line opportunity and want to take advantage of it as quickly as possible.
In case you don’t know the Aesop’s Fable “The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg“, it’s about a man and wife that had a goose that (you guessed it) laid golden eggs. They decided that instead of waiting for the eggs to be laid, they would rather cut open the goose and take all of the eggs at once. This, of course is a lesson about greed. Kaizen in the work force is the same. If you nurture the teams Kaizen spirit, not only will the golden eggs be perpetual, but they will increase in value.
I once saw a skilled Lean Sensei challenge a production line to eliminate one operator by reducing waste. At first, the operators were less than enthused. For one, I don’t think they completely understood the “by reducing waste” part. What they interpreted that to be was to work harder and faster. The other issue was that they assumed that the person that was “kaizened out” would find themselves standing in the unemployment line. Here’s where the game changer came in. The Sensei began to teach them how to identify the 7 wastes and empowered them to use their own creativity to eliminate them. Instead of feeling like they were being pushed to work harder, they felt as if they were finally being allowed to solve the problems that had been bothering them. What was to become of the person that was reduced? They were assigned to lead a similar activity on another line and teach their new-found knowledge to others. This was encouraging and rewarding to everyone on the team and they were motivated to meet the challenge
The example above was a really well executed one, but if you don’t have the ability to pull it off right now, at least make sure you figure out a way to reassigned the employee to another position due to attrition. The bottom line is never, ever, ever fire an employee as a result of improvement. Lean should always be done with long-term thinking in mind and if you sacrifice this for short-term gains, you are likely to end up with less than what you started with.